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    Archive for the ‘alcohol’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Food ‘Soaks Up’ Alcohol?

    beerREX_228x320Is it true that if you’ve had too much to drink, it’s a good idea to eat something rich in [carbohydrates] before going to bed so the alcohol can be soaked up and you feel better the next morning?

    — David (Last name withheld)
    San Diego, CA

    Nope.  By that point, it’s too late.

    The key is to have food in your stomach before you begin to drink.  This ensures that alcohol will take more time to enter the bloodstream.

    For optimal results, eat foods high in protein, fiber, and fat prior to a night out, as these take longer to digest.

    An almond butter sandwich or a black bean and brown rice burrito would do the trick.

    Keep in mind, though, that this is only effective for slowing down the rate of absorption of alcohol.  Every gram of alcohol you consume will ultimately be absorbed.


    You Ask, I Answer: Alcohol & Weight Loss

    tall_beerI would like to know the calorie content for beer, hard liquor and wine.

    If you’re trying to lose weight, what kind of alcohol should you stick to/try to avoid?

    Is it better to drink wine instead of beer?

    — Lori (last name withheld)
    Ottawa, Ontario

    As far as calorie figures are concerned, please refer to this post from July 2009.

    If weight-loss is your goal, though, liquid calories should be the first to go.

    Unless you are talking about homemade smoothies made with whole fruits and fiber-rich ingredients like oat bran and ground flax, liquid calories do very little towards helping you feel full, making it very easy to consume several hundred calories and still feel hungry.

    The best alcohol to drink is the one you simply drink less of.

    If, for instance, you find that one glass of red wine satisfies you the same way that three beers do, then wine is the best choice.

    Wine is not “more fattening” than beer, or vice versa.

    That said, keep in mind that mixed drinks are often higher in calories because they also include soda, fruit juice, or cream, all of which add extra calories.


    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Liz Hurley Pinpoints The Cause of Bloating… NOT!

    VNSAYM3elizabeth_hurleyMany thanks to Small Bites reader Sara Zuba for forwarding along this article from London’s Daily Mail newspaper, which details actress Elizabeth Hurley’s “diet secrets”.

    For starters?  In order to “keep her famously svelte figure,” Hurley now opts for vodka and seltzer over white wine.

    Mind you, she doesn’t “like vodka that much” and thinks it initially “tastes like medicine”, but anything to look svelte, right?  Insert eyeroll HERE.

    Not to mention, the caloric difference between a vodka drink and a glass of wine isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

    A 1.5 ounce serving of vodka with whatever amount of seltzer water she’s adding contains 103 calories.

    A 5-ounce serving of wine, meanwhile, provides 120 calories.

    We’re talking about 17 fewer calories — the amount found in two cashews.

    She then pulls this bit of nutrition advice from seemingly out of thin air:

    “‘I used to drink an awful lot of coffee, but I was told after the age of 40 you have to be careful with coffee and wine.  Apparently, that can be one of the reasons older women get bloated around their stomach.”

    Absolutely untrue.  There is nothing intrinsic in coffee that promotes bloating or the collection of adipose tissue around the stomach area.

    Perhaps the most disturbing — and, sad, really — part of the article is this reference to something Hurley said back in 2002:

    “Following the birth of [her 7-year-old son] Damian, she revealed how she only eats one meal a day and often goes to bed hungry”


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 16 ounce can of energy drink SoBe Adrenaline Rush contains 16.5 teaspoons of added sugar — all in the form of high fructose corn syrup.


    By comparison, 16 ounces of Coca Cola offer 13.5 teaspoons of added sugar.

    And since this energy drink — like all others — does not contain fat or protein, its entire caloric content (264 calories) is derived from high fructose corn syrup.

    We’re basically talking about soda infused with caffeine, amino acids, and vitamin B12.

    I find that many people are unaware of the caloric punch these drinks can pack.

    For example, I am often greeted with surprise when I tell someone that one SoBe Adrenaline Rush drink and two shots of hard liquor add up to 460 calories.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A traditional Long Island iced tea (shots of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and triple sec combined with sour mix and cola) contains 650 to 750 calories.

    The recipe I’m referring to is the one many bars in the United States offer — four jiggers of hard liquor, half a jigger of triple sec, half a cup of sour mix (pure sugar) and another half cup of cola.

    Not surprisingly, these are served in very tall glasses.

    Granted, some establishments offer smaller versions of this drink, but even then you’re looking at roughly 500 calories.

    It’s always a good idea to stick to a few low-calorie alcoholic beverages since alcohol lowers blood glucose levels, consequently triggering hunger.

    As you might guess, the more you drink, the hungrier you get. Which explains why some people can feasibly eat an entire bag of chips after a night at the bar.


    Numbers Game: Long Island Iced Atroci-Tea

    A traditional Long Island iced tea (shots of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and triple sec combined with sour mix and cola) contains ____ to ____ calories.

    a) 350 – 450
    b) 480 – 580
    c) 650 – 750
    d) 825 – 925

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    In The News: A Different Kind of Beer Buzz

    Forget Redbull and Monster energy drinks. Mixing Red Bull and vodka at the club? Soooo 5 years ago.

    The latest fad consists of canned alcoholic energy drinks. In the past year alone, one such drink — Miller’s Sparks — “delivered strong full-year double-digit growth.”

    This is particularly puzzling to me since one sip of the cloyingly sweet and artificial fizzy concoction was enough to make me grimace and shudder.

    In their latest issue, Time Magazine profiles a newcomer to the scene: Joose — a malted energy drink that packs as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and almost twice the alcohol content of a can of Budweiser.

    Artificial repulsiveness aside, one problem with these hybrid caffeine and alcohol beverages is that they “trick [the] brain into believing you’re not as drunk as you are.”

    By the way, one 16-ounce can of Sparks adds up to 350 calories.


    Oprah’s Reality Check

    When we last left Oprah and her “spiritual” vegan cleanse (all I’m saying is, my diet will often be vegan for several days, but that doesn’t stop me from getting irritated at the slow person in front of me at the supermarket checkout line who sloooowly counts their pennies), she was enjoying the perks of having a vegan chef ship her foods to Las Vegas (because what’s more spiritual than having a private jet deliver your cruelty-free meals?) and absolutely loving every second of her vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free life.

    By now, Oprah has finished her 21 day journey. What happened in the last week and a half is certainly interesting.

    No longer armed with a vegan chef, Oprah is forced to endure the rest of the “challenge” as any normal person would.

    Off the bat, I notice her entries start to get shorter, and comments along the lines of “just two more days” or “I was really craving some cheese!” begin popping up.

    Although Oprah later waxes poetic about what an eye-opening experience this was, and how it provided her with heightened awareness of her food, she forgets to mention a more important point — that overly restrictive eating plans are doomed for failure.

    This entire “project” felt like a silly crash diet. After twenty-one days of strict rules, old eating habits apparently returned, in large part due to constant cravings.

    On her last day, Oprah’s lunch consists of “a large baked potato with sautéed onions, herbs and olive oil, and [a] fresh green salad with avocado,tomato, lemon, garlic and olive oil.”

    As two side dishes, those are wonderful, filled with nutrition.

    However, as a meal, they are inadequate.

    In that same entry, Oprah considers it “progress” that she’s just “wishfully thinking” about having some grilled sea bass with it.

    Huh? Grilled sea bass would be a wonderful accompaniment to that potato and salad, offering lean protein, healthy fats, and zinc.

    This idea that it is but an indulgent fantasy is rather twisted. We aren’t talking about a Twinkie here.

    Besides, being vegan is not about subsisting on vegetables. Why not accompany those side dishes with grilled tofu, roasted tempeh, a soy patty, or even some quinoa?

    A few days prior to that entry, Oprah mentions craving wheat. I still feel like breaking through the computer monitor and saying, “What is so spiritual about denying yourself wheat? Just have some already!”

    Anyhow, I hope her viewers and readers took away the most important lesson — non-sensical strict rules and banning multiple food groups overnight is not healthy, spiritual, or smart.

    Over in Oprah Land….

    Time to see what Oprah’s blog reveals about her ongoing 21-day vegan diet (remember, she’s also shunning sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    Last Friday, Oprah stopped by Tom Cruise’s Telluride home, where she was met with a “ribs and chicken” (marinated in some sort of Scientology-friendly sauce, I’m sure) lunch.

    Granted, this was no vegan-friendly meal, so Oprah opted for salad, corn on the cob (no butter, of course) and kale.

    Which brings me to a very important point. Well-balanced vegan mealplans need to be researched and planned.

    I believe a vegan lifestyle can be healthy, but it must be looked into carefully prior to taking the plunge.

    If anyone reading this is considering going vegan, be my guest — but speak with a Registered Dietitian or, at the very least, read educational materials (preferably written by RDs) on how to meet your nutrient needs with meat and dairy alternatives.

    Becoming familiar with vegan alternatives and always being prepared (i.e.: carrying a source of protein like nuts or seeds in your bag in a small Ziploc bag) sets you up for success.

    Otherwise — especially when attending an event at a non-vegan’s house who is not familiar with your “diet,” — you run the risk of piling up on side dishes.

    Oprah’s lunch offers very little protein, zinc, iron, and fat. Nibbling on corn and greens is simply not nutritious — or filling!

    The next day — Saturday — Oprah is in Vegas and begins her entry with the following:

    “Tal [the vegan chef ‘assigned’ to Oprah and her team] has Fed-Exed food to Vegas, so we have egg-less omelets for breakfast and lasagna for the plane ride home.”

    Alright, I cry foul. Come on — anyone can do a 21 day vegan/sugar/wheat/alcohol/caffeine cleanse if a vegan chef Fed-Exes them meals!

    I would have liked to see Oprah “keep it real” and traverse the meat-laden obstacle that is Las Vegas.

    In that same posting, Oprah proudly mentions abstaining from having a celebratory glass of champagne.

    I still don’t understand how the shunning of alcohol (or gluten or sugar, for that matter) relates to becoming a more spiritually aware being.

    Besides, any dietary plan that has you obsessing over certain foods and beverages (the “I would like a drink but I am on this clease so as good as that would be I am just going to have seltzer and lime” sentiment has appeared a few times already) needs to be examined more closely.

    Sure, alcohol can be a source of empty calories, so although two drinks a day is not a good idea, not allow yourself one drink two days out of the week?

    The next day, a pooped Oprah mentions the vegan chef dropping off gluten and wheat-free waffles at her house just in time for breakfast. Oh goodie, how convenient!

    It frustrates me to think that viewers of Oprah’s show will blindly follow a similar diet, oblivious of some very necessary nutrients they may miss out on.

    Additionally, this idea that wheat and gluten are evil is misleading and completely subjective; it is only a problem for someone with a gluten allergy or celiac disease.

    This is a perfect example of something applicable to a small percent of the population being heralded as “general nutrition advice”

    Allow me to repeat my plea. Oprah, enough with the fad dieting. You’re a smart, accomplished woman with an immense fan base.

    Next time you want to tackle nutrition, why not invite a panel of Registered Dietitians to share information, debunk myths, and give people practical information they can apply to their daily lives?


    Checking in with Oprah

    I recently told you about Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse (which, apart from obviously shunning all animal-derived foods, also bans sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    The talk show queen is blogging on her site and updating everyone on her progress.

    Day 1 was fairly easy to traverse.

    You certainly can’t knock it as an unhealthy eating pattern.

    That day alone includes standouts like oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, wild rice, a baked potato, and olive oil.

    As wonderfully whole as all those foods are, I have some concerns.

    Despite providing sufficient calories (roughly 1,600), fiber, and protein, the total amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium do not meet requirements.

    Additionally, such a heavy reliance on nuts (they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack) really drives up the Omega-6 fatty acid content.

    This is slightly troublesome because, apart from some walnuts at breakfast and olive oil as salad dressing, Omega-3 intake isn’t that high.

    Remember, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio plays an important role in our health.

    I would personally add flaxseed to breakfast and replace the pinenuts in the dinner salad with nori (or some other sort of seaweed, naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.)

    By the next day, things get interesting — and a little unrealistic. Oprah and her exec producers (also doing this diet with her) get their very own vegan chef!

    And, alas, I’m back to my original gripes with this entire “cleanse.”

    When you start banning multiple food groups and not allowing yourself to have gluten (the most bizarre part of this plan; there is no reason to give up gluten unless you have an intolerance to it) or sugar, you’ll find that unless you are very experienced around a kitchen and alternative ingredients — or hire a personal chef — it is not easy to maintain a dietary lifestyle that is interesting, practical, healthy, and balanced.

    For Oprah and her colleagues to go the personal chef route is a bit of a copout. They should attempt to do this on the average income of an adult in the United States.

    Take this example — on day two, Oprah and her fellow cleansers wake up to strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes.

    Do you think that on a random Wednesday morning you’ll find yourself concocting such a recipe in your kitchen at 7 AM? I doubt it.

    A successful eating plan is not only nutritious and tasty, it also has to be convenient. What’s so wrong about some whole or sprouted grain toast with peanut butter?

    Or a bowl of whole grain cereal (slightly sweetened, say a measly 3 grams of sugar per serving) with soymilk and raisins?

    In yesterday’s blog entry
    , Oprah hints at another problem with these overly strict regimens (let me make something very clear: it is one thing to be vegan, but a whole other thing to be a vegan who abstains from sugar, coffee, alcohol, and gluten) — they can render you defenseless outside the four walls of your home.

    Oprah mentions flying to Las Vegas later this week and being slightly nervous about her choices.

    I hope she prepares herself for an eye-opening experience.

    Forget vegan-friendly, Vegas is barely vegetarian-friendly.

    Even something as standard and semi fast food-ish as a veggie burger is hard to come by. The only place where I felt healthy cooking was a priority was the spa at the Venetian Hotel.

    Otherwise, bring your own snacks!

    I found today’s entry to be cause for concern:

    “I hit a wall today. Literally had to stand in my closet and bound the walls, the cabinets, the floor for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.”

    A well-planned, balanced, practical eating plan should not have you feeling like this on day four.

    This is why I very much oppose overnight radical shifts. Not only is there no physiological benefit to banning things left and right from one day to the next, it also conjures up issues of self-flagellation and unnecessary deprivation that often accompany a lot of weight loss plans.

    It particularly upsets me because it sends very erroneous messages: healthy eating is a chore, it involves giving up pleasures, it pushes your body to the limit.


    The path to healthy eating and smart choices is not always going to be smooth and easy — it is perfectly common and understandable to have the occassional setback — and extreme approaches such as this “cleanse” certainly don’t help.

    It’s a shame that someone as influential and looked up to as Oprah isn’t using her show as a platform to show that wellness and health can be achieved without personal chefs, swearing off foods, or feeling like the world is caving in on you.

    Anyhow, Oprah has two more weeks to go. I’ll be sure to follow her progress and keep you all in the loop.


    O No!

    The issue of detoxing with dietary cleanses has been a hot topic on Small Bites over the past few days.

    In what is an interesting coincidence, Oprah Winfrey has begun a 21-day vegan cleanse inspired by Quantum Wellness author Kathy Freston.

    Freston, a self-described spiritual advisor (with no nutrition credentials), suggests this cleanse as a way to begin a “spiritual makeover”.

    Freston’s belief is that spiritual enlightenment includes a diet free of all animal products.

    Alright, full disclosure time: I have not eaten red meat, poultry, or pork since 1998.

    That decision was made after being informed of what I considered to be cruel treatment and welfare of animals who later become food.

    There was also the issue of the environmental toll resulting from raising animals for human consumption.

    So, while I can certainly appreciate the ideas of awareness and enlightenment, I am put off by attaching a 21-day vegan “cleanse” to the concept of a spiritual makeover.

    Going vegan for 3 weeks is not a cure for low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, or loneliness.

    Furthermore, if this is about enlightenment and the use of animals as food, why does this cleanse also ban (UGH, UGH, UGH) sugar, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol?

    Any plan that asks you to ban, forbid, or do away with certain foods or food groups overnight is a recipe for disaster.

    If anything, such abrupt changes will leave you more irritable, moody, and cranky than Kumbayah.

    Think of it this way. If you suddenly decided you wanted to start swimming, would you go for 50 laps your first time around? I don’t think so.

    Anyhow, Oprah started the cleanse this week and will update readers via her blog.

    I will follow this closely and comment on anything that stands out to me.

    Later today, I will take one of Oprah’s sample days and see what we come up with from a caloric and nutrient standpoint.


    What Happens in Vegas… Shows In Your Tummy

    Two nights in Las Vegas provided plenty of blogging material.

    My observations, below:

    Despite the recent influx of celebrity chefs and three star restaurants, there isn’t a single high-scale, fine dining vegetarian restaurant on the entire Strip.

    What gives?

    I’m afraid business executives and consumers are still under the inaccurate assumption that healthy dining and delicious meals are mutually exclusive.

    As a result, diners who do not eat meat have to basically rely on pasta dishes. Zzzzzz….

    All my restaurant experiences, while delicious, left me asking, “where’s the fiber?”

    Whole grains are completely absent from most menus, as are beans and legumes.

    I am not asking for steakhouses to be shut down or the plethora of French restaurants to “de-fatten” their menus.

    What I do want to know, though, is where are the options for healthy upscale eating?

    I understand being on vacation and wanting to enjoy a rich, decadent meal, but after two or three of those, your body starts begging for some mercy.

    Think everything is big in Texas? Wait until you hit the Vegas Strip!

    At the Paris hotel, you can get alcoholic drinks in an Eiffel-tower shaped 32 ounce glass. Over at the Luxor, 52 ounce daiquiris are on the menu.

    People do order them. I saw at least fifty people on one given night walking around the Strip with these huge drinks in hand — most were more than halfway finished.

    FYI — a 32 ounce daiquiri contains 1,800 calories. The 52 ounce? 2,900.

    And then there’s the buffets. I am not a big fan of them, as I often find that quantity trumps quality.

    I was up for some nutrition research, though, so off I went to The Palms for lunch one day.

    Of the forty different dishes, not a single one contained a whole grain.

    The salad bar’s only truly nutritious offerings were chickpeas and kidney beans.

    To my surprise — and disappointment — the salad bar did not offer carrots, bell peppers, broccoli florets, canned tuna, grilled chicken breast, avocado, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, beets, asparagus, or anything to help diners construct a healthy and tasty salad.

    It did, however, manage to provide croutons, bacon, cheese, iceberg lettuce, and pickles. Yum????

    Fried foods, rich sauces, and refined carbohydrates made up the bulk of the remaining offerings. Vegetables were mostly drowned in butter or cream or covered in a deep fried shell.

    Dessert consisted pies (some sugar free), cakes, brownies, and ice cream.

    Fruit, you ask? There was literally one basket with three apples and two bananas.

    The Venetian has a healthy restaurant (all dishes are low in saturated fat, high in fiber, high on fruit and vegetable content, and contain little or no added sugars) tucked away in its spa, meaning it is exclusively for guests of that hotel.

    Why not move it to the general restaurant area and open it up to the general public?

    While I’m at on the topic of hotels: why do guests have to pony up extra money — up to $20 or $30 — to utilize a hotel’s gym?

    Really. Why are people being deterred from exercising?

    Anyway, a big thank you to the folks who make Lara, Clif Nectar, and Flavor & Fiber bars. My intestinal tract couldn’t have made it in Vegas without you.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A pomegranate martini contains 245 calories.

    This number applies to all flavored martinis (and cosmopolitans, for that matter).

    I find that many people — even those knowledgeable about nutrition issues — tremendously underestimate the caloric value of alcoholic drinks.

    Consider this: knocking back three of these over the course of a night adds up to almost 750 calories — that’s equivalent to a Big Mac and a side order of Mickey D’s small fries.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A pomegranate martini contains 245 calories.

    This number applies to all flavored martinis (and cosmopolitans, for that matter).

    I find that many people — even those knowledgeable about nutrition issues — tremendously underestimate the caloric value of alcoholic drinks.

    Consider this: knocking back three of these over the course of a night adds up to almost 750 calories — that’s equivalent to a Big Mac and a side order of Mickey D’s small fries.


    Numbers Game: Last Call

    A pomegranate martini contains ____________ calories.

    a) 245
    b) 310
    c) 180
    d) 150

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer!

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